The 4th of July holiday produced a couple of point/counterpoint articles on the role of patriotism in the lives of Christians.
First, from the “Whoa, look out you don’t get too much patriotism on you” perspective, is Ed Stetzer:
Christians are, in a sense, dual citizens– of the Kingdom and of the nation where they live. I live in a country that is not without fault, but I am proud to be a citizen of that nation. I teach my children to be proud of their nation– not unaware of its challenges– and patriotic citizens.
Yet, I think that Christians in all those places need to be careful about mixing their faith and worship with their patriotism and nationalism.
Now, please note that I did not say that you should not be thankful for your nation, acknowledge the holiday and the freedom we have, and even sing songs that express such. However, my concern is that– on every Sunday– we need to be careful that nothing (including patriotism) distracts from the gospel and confuses the issues. Your nation is important– and I am exceedingly thankful for mine– but I celebrate that today (on July 4th) not in Sunday worship. (Actually, I am patriotic year-round, but you get the point.) If your church service (on July 1 this year) was driven more by America than by Jesus, I think you need a change.
Then from the “Hey, maybe patriotism isn’t really a sin” camp, it’s Brett (“Release the…!”) McCracken:
While some of those criticisms are valid (to be sure, patriotism has at times throughout history been used to galvanize nations around dastardly plans and policies), I think it’s a mistake to assume that a) patriotism is the same thing as nationalism, and b) patriotism is a manufactured extension of hegemonic ideology.
Patriotism is a good thing. It’s the natural emotional connection we have with place. We’re wired to ache for this notion of “home.” It’s what the Israelites longed for in the Sinai. It’s what the Hobbits longed for (the Shire) during their Middle Earth adventures. It’s what constitutes part of C.S. Lewis’s Sehnsucht: a nostalgic longing for the “Green Hills” of his Belfast childhood, “the low line of the Castlereagh Hills which we saw from the nursery windows.”
And so this Independence Day, I’m not going to feel bad about my pride in America. I’m not going to shrink from patriotism, as if it’s anything other than a natural and good thing to feel.
(Can you guess which side I come down on? Hint: Look for which side favorably quotes C.S. Lewis. This works for any argument about anything.)
I appreciate where Ed Stetzer is coming from; I really do. But I am tired of hearing Christians act sheepish about being Americans.
There is a reason that patriotism is so thoroughly intertwined with Christianity here. Christians have a keen understanding that America (in spite of our best, and still ongoing, efforts to screw it up) is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given mankind. In other words, we see all the wonderfulness that is in America, and we know where that wonderfulness comes from. Church is exactly the place where we should be loudest in our love for our country. That’s where we gather to “do business with God,” as the cool pastors like to say. Part of that business is to thank Him for His many blessings.
Yet many Christians treat unabashed patriotism like an overlong speech at the Oscars and try to play it off the stage as fast as possible. Failing to be appropriately thankful disrespects the gift and the giver. Don’t be an ingrate. If you live in America, give thanks to God. He’s the one who deserves it.